The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has told Wizz Air to make changes to its policies following concerns about the high number of complaints against the Hungarian airline regarding passengers not being paid what they are owed.
Along with changing its policies, the airline has also agreed to re-look at claims it received for replacement flight costs, transfers to different airports for replacement flights and care and assistance after flight disruptions, possibly costing the airline millions in wrongly rejected compensation claims.
According to the CAA’s enforcement action announcement, passengers have been complaining that the airline had failed to meet its passenger rights obligations, especially in providing alternative flights upon cancellations.
Wizz Air has agreed to sign undertakings to formalise the commitments made to the regulator and the CAA will also review a sample of the claims relooked at by Wizz Air
CAA joint-interim chief executive Paul Smith said the regulator will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the airline’s policies improve: “Passengers have every right to expect their complaints and claims to be resolved quickly and efficiently and to be treated fairly by airlines, in line with regulations. We made it clear to Wizz Air last year that the way it was treating passengers was unacceptable.
“This enforcement action sends a clear message that airlines must meet their obligations to passengers when they cancel or delay a flight. We will not hesitate to step in if we believe that airlines are not consistently doing this.”
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The CAA action will automatically cover flights that were due to depart from or arrive at a UK airport on or after 18 March 2022, though passengers with claims from before that date can ask for them to be reopened, as long as they are from no longer than six year ago.
In response to the CAA’s action, Wizz Air UK’s Managing Director Marion Geoffrey said that Wizz had learned from the experience and has also invested £90m to prepare for increased air traffic in the UK this summer.
She said: “Last summer, like all airlines in Europe, Wizz Air faced unprecedented operating challenges, driven mostly by the external environment, including ATC disruptions, airport constraints and staff shortages across the whole supply chain.
“As a result, we were unable to meet our own high standards of service. Flights were too often late or cancelled, disruption management overwhelmed our internal and external resources, and claims took too long to process and pay.”
The regulator’s action against the airline comes on the heels of proposals by the UK Government to further improve passenger protections during disputes with airlines.
Airlines could be made to sign up to an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution body as a result of the proposals, while the CAA would also be given more power, such as the ability to issue fines, to address breaches of the law.